Earl Thomas free agency odds: Breaking down the safety's best suitors

Earl Thomas playing safety for the Baltimore Ravens
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Andrew Ortenberg

NFL· 1 year ago

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I'm an editor here at Pickswise who was raised in a household full of sports fanatics. Since I unfortunately never had LeBron James' jumping ability I wasn't able to make it to the NBA, and chose writing about sports as the next best thing. An avid sports bettor myself, I'm excited to get to write about the industry as it gets set to take off across the country. Buckle up.

It’s rare for an All-Pro player to be released this late in training camp, but that’s exactly what just happened with safety Earl Thomas. Thomas continued to play at a very high level with the Baltimore Ravens last year, but a fight with teammate Chuck Clark was the last straw after he had already drawn the ire of the coaching staff repeatedly.

He’s now by far the best free agent available, and it’ll be very interesting to see where he lands. He’ll be appealing to Super Bowl contenders looking to add one last piece to their title chase, as well as to teams specifically looking for help in the secondary. Here are a few options that make the most sense:

1. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys were the obvious team that came to mind as soon as Thomas was cut. Back when he was still with the Seahawks, the former ‘Legion of Boom’ anchor used to talk about his desire to play in Dallas one day. As a Texas native who played his college ball at UT, it would be a nice homecoming for Thomas.

Reports have varied about the Cowboys’ level of interest, although new head coach Mike McCarthy did just reveal the team has discussed it internally. NFL Network reported there was interest, but that the Cowboys might not be willing to meet his asking price financially. The Cowboys already made some bold moves on defense this offseason, including bringing in Dontari Poe and Everson Griffen, and this could be the feather in Jerry Jones’ cap.

2. New England Patriots

The Patriots already pulled off one stunning free agent acquisition by bringing in Cam Newton, why not a second? Head coach Bill Belichick certainly has a lot of respect for Thomas as a player, and Thomas has always been on teams with strong winning cultures.

New England could also use some safety help after stalwart Patrick Chung decided to opt out of the 2020 season. The Patriots certainly don’t have their best roster in recent years, but the signing of Newton presents enough upside for a vet like Thomas. Belichick has been aggressive recently, like when he briefly scooped up Antonio Brown at the beginning of last season.

3. Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles had a lot of talent last year, but struggled mightily in large part thanks to their sieve of a secondary. Malcolm Jenkins signed with the Saints this offseason, leaving Philly without the strong veteran presence in the backend of their defense that they’d been accustomed to.

Thomas could be a valuable leader for their volatile group, in addition to his on-field contributions. Although he never quite meshed in the locker room in Baltimore apparently, that was never the case in Seattle. Thomas has a ton of experience being the heart and soul of a defense, and that’s something this Eagles team could desperately use at the moment.

The bottom line:

The Cowboys make the most sense, and it’s not particularly close. There’s the sentimental factor with them being his hometown team, and Thomas has made it clear in the past he wants to play in Dallas. The recent reports coming out of the building seem like classic negotiation tactics to me, as the Jones family tries to get a better price.

The Cowboys have made several additions to their defensive front but could still use some help in the secondary, and Thomas could help put them over the edge. From Thomas’ perspective he isn’t getting any younger, as he’ll turn 33 later this year. At this age he almost certainly wants to compete for a championship this year, and the Cowboys give him the best chance to do that easily. After both sides are done posturing, I wouldn’t be surprised if this came together pretty quickly.

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